Versatile film pro Craig J. Harris joins the 2020 edition of Reel Chicago Black List, an annual celebration of African-American creativity published during Black History Month.
The Reel Chicago Black List includes Global Mixx founder Mary Datcher, McDonald’s US Marketing Director Lizette Williams, and filmmaker Rhyan LaMarr. To view the archives, click here.
Craig J. Harris is a veteran TV and film producer, screenwriter, actor, voice over artist, and stuntman. Harris has years of industry experience, creating, developing, writing and producing, hundreds of hours of television programming, including A&E’s The First 48: Missing Persons, CNN’s Chicagoland, and along with his producing partner Michael Weber, the recently-aired Double Down on HGTV, and an upcoming docu-series for a major cable network.
Harris’ work has earned five local Emmy Awards, an In-House Agency Forum Award, and a Telly Award.
Harris started his career in front of the camera as a SAG-AFTRA actor on TV (Chicago PD, Empire, PrisonBreak), and in film (The Unborn, Eagle Eye, Fred Claus).
Additionally — along with performing voiceovers for video games and national commercials (Mortal Kombat, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s), Harris also works as a professional stuntman and is a National Emmy Judge.
CRAIG J. HARRIS
CHICAGO PD — BEHIND THE STUNTS
Meet Craig J. Harris
What did you originally want to be when you grow up?
I envisioned two distinct vocations when I was growing up: One was to become an archeologist, and the other was, I kid you not, to become Stevie Wonder. Not to become a singer and musician, but to become Stevie Wonder. I was so enamored by Stevie Wonder’s talents that, at a very young age, I thought I could become him as an actual job. I used to impersonate his speech and mimic his keyboard playing. Later, I wanted to become a lawyer and then an IT Specialist, which I was for ten years of my professional career, but a job in the TV and Film industry never occurred to me until much later.
How did you get into the film industry?
I got into the TV and Film industry by taking a leap of faith. I’d been married for a few years and we were expecting our first child. After twelve years of ignoring a desire to enter the industry as a voiceover artist, which was first sparked by my involvement in college radio, I announced to my wife that I wanted quit a six-figure job as an IT Specialist to pursue a career in the performing arts. Needless to say, I slept on the couch that night – and rightfully so, but she eventually agreed that I should pursue my dream. Through preparation, determination, and unexpected Blessings, I’ve been able to maintain a consistent career in the TV and Film industry, exceeding the yearly salary I walked away from, for the last 22 years.
Who were your mentors?
There are mentors in my professional life, of which I have many, and mentors in my private life, of which I have few – my parents and my siblings. I consider my father, mother, brothers and sisters to be my true mentors, because all have contributed to my tenacity, ambitions and success and have inspired me to achieve my goals, while creating the foundation for me to have an open mind to accept the wisdom, advice and support of my many professional career mentors later in life.
What is your greatest achievement?
People sometime ask me if winning industry awards have been my biggest career achievement, my answer is always, “No.” While receiving accolades in your chosen field is nice, in my opinion, those awards and honors are the product of what others think of your work. I’d like to think that my biggest achievement has been to consistently create and hold myself to a higher creative and artistic standard that is arduous for me to achieve, but satisfying for me to maintain. I also consider my career longevity and being able to adapt, remain relevant and consistently working in a highly competitive industry as a big career achievement.
THIS DAD IS A GIRL SCOUT
What is your greatest disappointment?
I can’t say that I’ve had any “big disappointment” in my career or life. Anything that I receive or accomplish, I count is as a blessing to me. Anything I don’t receive or accomplish; I consider as someone else’s blessing and not intended for me. I feel I’ve been blessed abundantly in my life.
What are your biggest pet peeves?
I don’t have any pet peeves. I’m not annoyed by the quirks and idiosyncrasies of individuals because that’s what makes each person unique and I enjoy diversity. Additionally, having pet peeves would be counterproductive for me because it only creates negative energy for myself regarding something over which I have no control.
What are your predictions for the film industry over the next decade?
I believe evolving technology will continue to impact the industry and lead to more opportunities for content creators due to an explosion of non-traditional exhibition spaces, niche programming and audience-controlled content consumption (binging). The arrival of YouTube Red, Facebook Watch, along with other distribution platforms, demonstrate that the landscape is currently changing and that we’re witnessing it in real time. The challenge currently is to figure out how to reliably and consistently monetize these avenues, but I think once that milestone is reached, it will usher in a new era in the industry.
Name a job you had that would surprise people.
It would probably surprise a lot of people that I’ve been a Girl Scout Troop Leader for fifteen years, spanning the involvement of my two daughters who are eight years apart. I’m also a professional stuntman and stunt driver, which I believe makes me the world’s only Stuntman/Girl Scout Troop Leader.
What famous actor plays you in your life story?
At this point, I couldn’t say what famous actor plays me in my life story because I’m still writing the chapters of my life’s adventures, while living in the moment and embracing the full potential of what I can achieve. I believe that I have so much more to accomplish.
What do you wish you had more time to do?
I’ve never been the type of person who wished for more time. I rather try to make the most out of the time I have, which is why I’m so invested in doing a number of things that I feel enriches my life. In addition to creating, developing and producing content, I’m also an actor and voiceover artist, a screenwriter, a stuntman/stunt driver, a spin class fitness instructor, a Girl Scout Troop Leader, a mentor for media career aspirants, and a tireless volunteer for causes ranging from domestic violence prevention to cancer awareness, all while dedicating quality time to my family and contributing to the community. I feel a person is only limited by their imagination and their determination to actualize it.
What motivates you to create?
I’m driven to create due to my passion for life, my intellectual curiosity, and my need to communicate and amplify my creative voice to the universe. For me, creating not only allows for an in-depth introspection, but also affords me to gain empathy of the people and the world around me.